Some security researchers believe that the next war won’t be fought with tanks, fighter jets, or nuclear weapons: it will be fought by teams of hackers over computer networks. China pushed that idea one step closer to reality this week by admitting that it maintains cyber warfare hacking teams across the country.
Over the past few years, China has been implicated in a number of suspicious hacking attempts and attacks around the world. Industries have had their trade secrets stolen and many believe these hackers are sponsored by the Chinese government.
For the first time ever, China revealed this week that its military does maintain dedicated cyber warfare units. The state sponsors these units and they specialize in a number of different areas.
China revealed this information in the latest issue of The Science of Military Strategy, a publication produced by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on an infrequent basis.
According to a member of the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, this is the first time China has talked about its cyber warfare capabilities:
“It means that the Chinese have discarded their fig leaf of quasi-plausible deniability. As recently as 2013, official PLA publications have issued blanket denials such as, ‘The Chinese military has never supported any hacker attack or hacking activities.’ They can’t make that claim anymore.”
That quote comes from an interview with The Daily Beast.
This information isn’t exactly groundbreaking: the intelligence community has identified countless cyber-attacks originating from China over the past 3-5 years. This is the first time, however, that the Chinese government has actually acknowledged that it sponsors cyber warfare divisions.
Hacking Costs America Billions Every Year
According to FBI Director James Comey, cyber-attacks against America originating from China cost US companies “billions” every year.
Comey also claims the hackers are aggressive and widespread. They’re constantly trying to break into US systems, which is why American corporations have been advised to invest significant amounts of their budget into security defense measures.
Nevertheless, Chinese hacking attempts aren’t always complex and sophisticated. Instead, Comey said much of the damage comes from the simple proliferation of attacks.
Last year, Comey famously called Chinese hackers “drunk burglars”. Most are harmless, but every once in a while, they stumble across a weak vulnerability in a company that doesn’t invest much in cyber security.
China has Three Separate Digital Military Divisions
Apparently, China has three separate digital military divisions, each of which focuses on different areas:
-Specialized Military Network Warfare Forces: Carries out network cyberattacks and maintains Chinese cyber-defense networks.
-Civilian Network Warfare Operations: This division is staffed by civilian teams which have been “given the go-ahead” by the Chinese military to carry out network warfare operations.
-External Entities “Umbrella”: This is the most mysterious division of China’s cyber warfare arm. It reportedly acts as an “umbrella” organization and has the authority to act outside of government departments to carry out network warfare operations. It seems like this division isn’t always mobilized or operational, but can be used to act outside government departments.
According to a Chinese military expert, each unit targets US companies. The units have one goal: steal US data that could put China ahead in the global economy.
The real question is: does this mean the next big Call of Duty series will be called Call of Duty: Cyber Warfare? That sounds awful.